Update: Like Gaboogie, Foonz Losing Its Voice Too

old_phone.jpgEarlier this year we wrote about Gaboogie, a web-based conference call service started by Erik Lagerway. The service didn’t quite work out, and the company reconfigured its business focus to offering instant group calls from mobiles, and is now called Lypp.

Another web-based conferencing service, Foonz might be going down that route. Randy Corke, President & CMO of Foonz’s parent company, RPM Communications was in town last week to bring me upto speed on their new offering, Utterz, which is sort of like blogging-via-voice-calls from your cellphone. The Maynard, MA-based, RPM recently raised $4 million in Series A funding from Morgenthaler Ventures.

During our chat, Corke said he was focusing all his energies on their recently launched service, Utterz. he pointed out that the audio-centric advertising has been a bit of a non-starter. On top of that the opportunity to make money from terminating calls is dwindling fast, and that is why he has shifted focus from Foonz to Utterz.

Of course, there is also this little fact: the pre-Web 2.0 conference call services such as FreeConference.com are good enough for people to not muck around with new concepts.

Update: Randy got in touch this morning, and wanted to point out that Foonz isn’t ready for the next world just yet.

Based on your posting, I’m concerned that I didn’t articulate a couple of points very well. First, with regards to audio-centric advertising, my point was that it is still a nascent market, while online advertising is well established. I did not mean to in any way insinuate that audio advertising is a non-starter – in fact we are quite bullish about it.

The other point I obviously wasn’t clear about was foonz. While you are right that we are focusing our marketing on Utterz right now, foonz continues to grow at an average of 50% per month over the past six months, and people love the unique ability to start a group call on-the-fly and group messaging capabilities of foonz. In particular, we have seen strong growth and use by faith based groups, small businesses and families.

That last comment prompted me to ask him how can he not focus on a service that is growing 50% every month? (Of course, not knowing what is the Foonz user base, the 50% monthly growth is a meaningless metric, at lease from my perspective.)

As a startup, we like to focus to make an impact. Since foonz is able to grow now on its own without a lot of effort from us and we believe Utterz has tremendous upside, it’s a simple matter of focusing our efforts and resources on Utterz now to make sure it gets off to a good start.

Much as I would like to buy into that argument, I can’t. As I had said earlier, the so called group calling and conference services are a bit of a non starter. Consumers’ have to be completely fed-up and experience extreme frustration before embracing a new technology. Anyway, Corke’s point about focus is well taken.

Related Article: 27 tips for teleconferencing.

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